I was wondering this while watching “Hamilton” on TV over the weekend. It was the second time I had seen the original cast. The first was February 2016, where I sat in the Richard Rodgers Theater alone, enchanted and outdated.
I looked back at old Facebook memories and apparently posted this that day: “They asked Hamilton: ‘Why do you write as if time has run out?’ My response during the break of this show about America’s possibilities: Why we are. “
I noticed the few white faces on the stage and wondered if they could have an idea of what it meant to live the revolution that was “Hamilton”, what it means now and if they could have advice on what it means to be an ally of black people.
So I turned to Thayne Jasperson, who plays Samuel Seabury – a loyalist of the British crown and rival of Alexander Hamilton – in the film version. Jasperson holds the distinction of being the only original cast member still with the show, which like all Broadway was closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus.
I interviewed him via email and modified the conversation for clarity and length.
Let’s go back to how you ended up in the original “Hamilton” cast. Did you know this would be a success and revolutionary for casting diversity?
I had no idea what I was for when I auditioned and then I joined “Hamilton”. I remember the first day and this beautiful new interpretation of the founding fathers portrayed as black humans.
During the first workshop, on the ramp down to Broadway, I knew this would have an impact on humanity. From there it has only improved.
How many white actors were there in the original cast and in this film version?
On the stage there were two women, me and the king.
Let’s analyze to be among the “unique”. Did you have that experience before “Hamilton?”
I don’t know that I can ever fully understand what it means to be a black human being, nor do I try to pretend that my relationships can even be compared to the difficulties of racism.
For me being “the only one” in situations was growing up in Wyoming and being bullied by my interest in the arts and my softer nature. I had friends and an ex-girlfriend who called me “fagot”. Whether I was or not, emasculation took effect. I was also raised in a faith in which being a bisexual man was not easily accepted.
I am learning every day to embrace who I am, in all aspects and to share my voice.
How many times has the breed been openly discussed at work, backstage, during rehearsals? How did you get involved and what did you learn in this process?
The breed was regularly discussed. I learned that I had grown more ignorant than I thought. I found myself trying to relate, understand and develop an awareness of how I could be supportive. It is still a journey. I have found my foot in my mouth a number of times while I continue to learn.
In the beginning, in 2014, we were rehearsing. We sat outside for a lunch break and discussion of racism in its current state followed. I was surprised to hear how some of my friends, who are kind and loving people, talked about multiple cases where they were profiled for the color of their skin while they were in predominantly white areas, streets and neighborhoods.
With “Hamilton”, I plunged into a completely new world of education: learning what my fellow actors, as black humans, go through.
How important is being the only original cast member still with the show?
I’m the last member of the original cast left in “Hamilton” on Broadway. If I am a pioneer in such an impactful show, I feel the duty to share, learn and find ways in which we can bring light and awareness to the world, in any way possible.
Have you read “White Fragility?” What reading or preparation did you do before or during this role?
I didn’t have the opportunity to read “White Fragility” in particular, but I did a lot of research on my character, Samuel Seabury. Also, in the six years that I lived and breathed the “Hamilton” story, I understood why racism is so difficult for white men and women to speak.
It is embarrassing, yes. It can be uncomfortable and can be humiliating since we all have so much work to do to bridge the gap.
Speaking as a white male, I believe we can begin to dispel racism by opening up conversations within our own communities, be they small or large, even within our homes.
There is no effort that can be too big or small for our brothers and sisters. On this aspect I have the same space to grow on any other.
What is it like to have the release of the film version right now in America?
Isn’t it something nice ?! The fact that this show can come forward globally, influencing the human mind. Everyone connects to this show differently, ideally, guiding us towards the same goal.
Do you have any ideas on how to also play King George III on the show and cast him in the role of White?
For me, playing King George is an opportunity to play a man full of dementia, control and selfish ideals. Opposition to … what we as Americans fight for: our freedom, for one and for ALL. Together.
What would you say to whites who fear losing their power or their importance among Black Lives Matter?
Don’t talk or gain knowledge of the existence of racism – one stunts on the progress of equality.
James Baldwin said: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”
Such depth to Baldwin’s statement. Now is a wonderful time to free the traps and expand our minds into a brighter world.